The Truth About the Great Recession
Now We're Ready to Hear It
The global democracy movement has reached America’s shores. The national conversation has shifted. And each day, more and more of our citizens begin to ignore the billion dollar sideshow designed to distract us, divide us, and most importantly disguise the true causes of the Great Recession.
The time has come to reclaim recent American history from the news/entertainment industry and other narratives scripted by One Percent Media. To aid us, along comes Lawrence Lessig's new book Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It. Before offering an actionable plan for reform, this book summarizes with incredible clarity the systemic corruption that led to the collapse of our economy. His chapter "Why Isn't Our Financial System Safe" is reprinted with permission below.
From the book REPUBLIC, LOST. Copyright (c) 2011 by Lawrence Lessig.
C H A P T E R 7
Why Isn’t Our Financial System Safe?
by Lawrence Lessig
This is a criminally incomplete understanding of the disaster that we’ve just suffered. And while it would take a whole book to make that case convincingly, in the few pages that follow, I sketch one part of the argument with enough detail to make it relevant to the argument of this book. For the core driver in this story was not craziness. It was rationality. The behavior we saw— from borrowers to lenders to Wall Street to government officials— was perfectly rational, for each of them considered separately. It was irrational only for the system as a whole. We need to understand the source of that irrationality— not an individual, but a systemic irrationality— to ask whether the policy judgments that produced it could even possibly have made sense. That source is tied directly to regulation. [MORE]
Founding Member Renewal Drive
DVD Offer For New Members Too
A year ago we launched an experiment. Our first ever membership drive was an astonishing success, crashing our website more than once (because so many people waited until Feb. 28) and bringing in thousands of Coffee Party Founding Members. We saw this as a resounding affirmation of our civil, fact-based, and trans-partisan approach to the deliberative process. Your faith in us inspired a year of tireless work (see our Top 10 List of accomplishments for 2011), with a prime directive voted for by our members — to achieve tax code reform, Wall Street reform, and campaign finance reform. In recent weeks, Presidential candidates in both parties have said they want to address all three issues. Now it's time to hold them accountable, and we will have no better opportunity to do so than this critically important election year.
As president of your newly elected Coffee Party Board of Directors, I am inviting Founding Members to renew memberships during the month of February with a special offer not available to you a year ago when you first joined (more on this below). We ask that you do this before the end of the month so that by early March, when our new Board meets in person for the first time, we will have an idea how much support to expect as we plan our actions and initiatives throughout the year. We are dedicated to increasing awareness of our core issues and increasing participation in the 2012 election. An informed and involved electorate is the only effective way to counter the influence of money in politics restore self-governance to the People.
Membership Gift for Renewals at $50 or more
(AVAILABLE FOR 1ST TIME MEMBERS TOO)
Award-winning documentary known as the "Coffee Party prequel"
9500 Liberty documents the first time in US history that an Arizona-style immigration law was actually implemented, and, the surprising, trans-partisan coalition that rose up to repeal it. Caught in the middle of a ferocious and racially-charged culture war were two Asian American film directors, Annabel Park and Eric Byler (me) taking citizen journalism to a new level with the world's first "interactive documentary" — over 100 video reports from all sides of the issue posted to YouTube. It was in the process of making this film that Annabel and I developed the participation practices that underlie the Coffee Party: reaching across the political divide, showing respect for diverse cultures and diverse perspectives, and putting the facts first before making policy decisions. [MORE]
Fresh Grounds: $98 Million for Drive
Negative Ads Could Be Better Spent
by Debilyn Molineaux, Coffee Party Executive Director
$98 Million. That’s how much has been raised by Super PACs in this election cycle according to OpenSecrets.org as of February 5, 2012. $46 million of that has been spent, most of it on negative and misleading political advertisements that have ripped apart the Republican candidates and have or will soon focus on President Obama. This is just "politics as usual."
I can't help but wonder, what if we stopped the war of political advertising and focused on solutions with that money? Granted, it's private money and sure, we couldn't make the "other side" look so bad. But maybe we could think bigger and start solving our big issues like education, debt, immigration, public safety and environment.
What would it take to stop the ad wars? If the ads stopped working, the politicians and Super PACs would stop running them. Personally, I don't watch TV ads, read mailers or listen to robo-calls. And those email threads designed to inflame passion? I do the research and usually send the truth back to the sender and their entire list. I refuse to participate in a system that is a giant toilet of lies and deceit. Yeah, I'm a sucker for the truth these days. What about you? How do you cope?
Yes, this takes more time in my life. It's called citizenship. It's my responsibility. When I pass it off to someone else, we end up in a mess like the government we have today. Our government reflects our collective priorities. Right now, that's not making me proud. So I'm putting in my time with research and information and keeping my emotions in check. [MORE]
Fighting Citizens United: a Report
from the West Sound Coffee Party
The last part of January was busy with scheduled activities. With a few days of freezing temperatures, ice & snow, sporadic power outages, and a few cancelled “Occupy the Courts” events, I was worried about our town hall styled forum, “Are Corporations People?” at the Kitsap Regional Library in Bremerton, WA on Jan. 23. With Eric Byler of the Coffee Party, Chris Henry of the Kitsap Council of MoveOn.org and Brian Gunn of Involved Democracy scheduled to speak, I wondered if the roads would be thawed out in time. Fortunately, rain and warmer weather on the last two days before “show time” melted all the ice and snow.
We had a group of around 40 attend and it went flawlessly if I do say so myself. A group of about 10 joined Eric and me at a local restaurant afterwards, where our discussion continued. Not only did one of the local papers do a good piece before the event (which in itself raised awareness about the issue of money in politics), Tim Kelly attended the event and wrote an opinion piece called "The Fate of Democracy and the Fate of the Internet are Linked," summarizing what it meant to him. Kelly wrote:
In the outraged public reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling from two years ago that regards corporations as people and money as speech that can’t be restricted, Byler sees a parallel to one of the most glorified moments from the narrative of America’s revolutionary conception: the Boston Tea Party. That event “was a response to an abuse of power, and to collusion by government and a corporation,” Byler observed while speaking Monday night to about 40 people at a forum held to discuss the Citizens United ruling.
The corporate-government nexus that’s so powerful in post-recession America is a primary reason Byler co-founded the Coffee Party USA two years ago, with the aim of creating a diverse, transpartisan grass-roots movement.
Byler, a youthful looking, 40-year-old Chinese-American, isn’t some ranting radical; he’s not particularly animated when he speaks. But at Monday’s forum where local organizer Don Manning arranged Byler’s appearance the day before he attended the Seattle International Film Festival, he spoke with a thoughtfulness and unmistakable conviction of purpose.
As an artist and communicator, maybe even a visionary, who’s utilizing the full potential of social media to build a global network of activists, Byler encourages others to engage in the “narrative war” and to realize that they don’t have to accept the content and messages controlled by corporate interests, but rather they can be “creators and spreaders of our own content.”
Introducing Jose Gutierrez of Our New
Coffee Party Board of Directors
by Jose Gutierrez
When I signed up to become an official member of Coffee Party USA a year ago, I couldn't have imagined I'd soon have the the incredible honor of being elected to our Board of Directors. How I got here is a whole story in itself. Why I am here is what I want to talk to you about.
Growing up as the son of an undocumented immigrant to this country, I recognized injustices amongst all walks of life. While I am continually struck at how many people aren't able to voice their concerns, I am surprised that others who can, don't. [MORE]
Introducing Frank Kirkwood of Our
New Coffee Party Board of Directors
by Frank Kirkwood
Excerpt: I have never felt more hopeful than I do right now, that we are going to revive our democracy and that you and I and the Coffee Party are going to play an important role in getting that done. Let me ask you, “Do you trust Congress to represent you?” Not many Americans would answer “yes” to that question and it’s no wonder. Members of Congress are in a position where keeping their jobs depends on gathering enormous amounts of campaign money from people who want something in return. And now, thanks to the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, our elected officials can be intimidated by powerful self-interested groups who can threaten to launch a multi-million dollar negative ad campaign against our representative if he or she dares to displease them.
The way our democracy is supposed to work — we, the people from the congressional district (or for Senators, the state), are the only people our representatives should be dependent on or should ever need to fear. How can we trust our representatives when they are dependent on and intimidated by other people? [MORE]
Book Club, Radio Show to Host
Lawrence Lessig Thurs. Feb. 9, 2 PM ET
by Linda Cook
The Coffee Party Book Club is proud to announce that we are hosting very a special Coffee Party Radio Show to discuss Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It with its esteemed author, Professor Lawrence Lessig, on Thursday February 9th at 2 pm ET (11 am PT).
Professor Lessig first caught my attention at the Coffee Party Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. After enjoying the most enchanting political presentation I have ever seen and participating in the Mock Constitutional Convention, I had a whole new understanding of the problem we face. Many people said it changed their lives (video below).
Please use this form to submit questions or comments for Professor Lessig, and indicate if you'd like to be part of the radio show.
Click here to order your copy of Republic, Lost.
Click here on Thursday at 2 PM ET to listen live on your computer.
Non-Violence & the Future of Occupy
A Global Movement for Economic & Social Equality
by Stephan Said
In the wake of Occupy Oakland’s violent confrontation with police, many people are writing about non-violence and Occupy but missing the point. Occupy has been very successful in awakening an invigorated debate across the country while remaining largely non-violent.
But, to this point, Occupy has primarily defined itself through the politics of opposition, as its name even implies. Against Wall St., against Citizens United, against money in politics, against income inequality, against the G8.
To be both effective and sustainable, great movements, like those for Women’s Suffrage and Indian Independence, have to transform themselves beyond a start-up oppositional phase, into one in which they are defined not by what they are against, but by what they are FOR.
Great movements lift a moral vision high above the political dialogue that reaches into peoples’ hearts. When a moral vision precedes a movement, the necessary actions against oppressive policies and the diversity of tactics protestors autonomously undertake are fortified and the PR battle is more easily won. [MORE]
Redefining Human Worth
Excerpt: The movers of capital have no interest in what a particular business actually produces. Movers of capital are more focused on the dictates of the market. Their practices do indeed create wealth for a select few — great wealth, often in no time flat — but they often harm or even exploit the business owners, workers, and communities with whom they come into contact.
Their lack of interest in the common good, and their lack of wisdom and foresight are evident in many ways. Forty years after the oil embargo, there were no substantive investments in alternative energy to keep up with countries like China, Germany, and Brazil. They’ve lobbied and electioneered for an economic model that rewards outsourcing — sending jobs overseas to maximize profits, driving down wages and driving up unemployment here at home. In the short term, these policies made a few people very wealthy, but thirty years of flat or falling wages have compounded the job losses caused by the Great Recession, creating dangerously low consumer demand, and, without drastic intervention by the Bush and Obama administrations, a recipe for a second Great Depression.
Media empires and think tanks have invested unfathomable amounts of money pushing an ideology that demonizes educators, academics, and public safety officers while celebrating profiteers as "job creators." After 30 years of policies designed by and for our "job creators," can we at last acknowledge the empirical evidence and proclaim the trickle-down theory of economics the voodoo that George H. W. Bush proclaimed it all those years ago? [MORE]
Wisconsin Recall Update
by Craig Dunnigan
One year ago on February 11th, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker announced the Budget Repair Bill that, among other provisions, ended most of the decades-old right of public employees to collectively bargain for their wages and working conditions. The resulting furor is well known to anyone who follows the news. This past November, Wisconsin residents — led by a PAC called "A United Wisconsin to Recall Scott Walker" — launched the only remedy allowed us in the state constitution. We announced that we would petition to recall the Governor. On January 17 of this year, we turned in our petition with over one million signatures.
Defend Human Rights, American Jobs
Our beloved smartphones and iPads hide a dirty little secret. Low labor costs combined with an efficient supplier infrastructure make particular Asian factories the economic choice for electronics manufacturers. Many smartphones, most Apple products, and many other technology products are manufactured at Foxconn, headquartered in Taiwan. Unfortunately labor conditions at Foxconn are oppressive, almost barbaric by Western standards. Pitiful wages, long hours, tedious work, bans on organized labor, abusive management, and even suicides are prevalent at the massive plant. While American-designed iPhones are manufactured in oppressive Asian factories, Americans face high unemployment and a troubling decline in manufacturing jobs at home. What can be done?
Perhaps working conditions will improve if we begin to tax oppression. It might work like this. A panel including human rights experts, labor representatives, manufacturing executives, economists, and government trade analysts would begin by creating a reference standard and index for quantifying oppressive working conditions. Let’s call it the sweatshop index. The most worker-friendly factories would score zero; the worst factories would have high scores. [MORE]
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